How to stop your party from dying!
“What do you mean you have no spells left?”
Nick here again, to offer some advice to our new players! Last week, I talked about tanks and how to play them effectively. Today I’ll go over another important role in the party… the healer!
Ah, the healer. Playing that role is important–and tricky! You’re responsible for keeping the party alive, but there’s so much more to it than that! Spells do more than just increase/decrease HP values… you can control the flow of combat by casting support spells to make your party strong or enfeeble the hell out of the enemy! Or enfeeble the hell into them if you’re playing that kind of character. It’s your call, really.
Many people take up the mantle of a healer to play that divine, benevolent protector (or dastardly servant of some dark lord). Some people are a little familiar with the role from MMORPG’s like Final Fantasy XIV. However, it’s not always that simple. A few careless mistakes can have devastating results. As the healer, you’re the life force of the party. Cutting you down means the enemy gains a massive advantage, as the beefier tank can’t be healed, and the party lost access to all of your support magic. Which–especially when you’re against a smarter foe (not goblins) means there’s a pretty god damn good chance they’ll try to single you out.
In other words…
He’s dead, Jim.
So how do you avoid the untimely death so that you survive long enough to get a sweet effing halo? Let’s discuss this!
1. Build: I talked about this last time with tanks, but I simply can’t reiterate this enough–research your builds! For example, feats are super important. I can’t stress enough how absurdly effing good War Caster is for any caster. (War caster feat 5e) Using your reaction to cast spells rather than an attack of opportunity, advantage on CON-based saves for spell interruption, and being able to cast somatic spells with weapon in-hand is stupid good. If you’re thinking about creating a Cleric, they’re a very versatile class with a lot of builds. Melee builds are very feasible (I’m looking at you, Cleric Tempest Domain), but pure casters are also incredibly powerful. With spells to eventually bring back the dead or call upon divine intervention, a Cleric is an incredible boon to the party… if played right.
Perhaps you’re not big on the idea of playing a Cleric? Well, other classes can offer some supplementary healing in a pinch. Bard, especially with the College of Lore, gets access to a good number of healing and support magic while still providing great aid through its proficiency bonuses and Bardic Inspiration. Druid gets a lot of the classics like Cure Wounds or Regenerate and later True Resurrection and has about as many spell slots as a Cleric. Paladin can play a healer in a pinch thanks to supplementary healing and its Lay on Hands ability, but a Cleric/Bard/Druid would be better suited.
2. Situation Awareness: Just as the tank must look over the battlefield to see where they should be to protect someone, you should be looking to see where you need to be to not be surrounded and murdered. Going through a narrow corridor in a sunken temple? You probably shouldn’t take point. Facing down a horrible roaring demon? Don’t stand out in the open and don’t rush the damn thing. Remember: everybody can contribute to the damage and help out during the fight, but if you get too caught up in dishing out sweet numbers you’re liable to get an axe through the head.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t attack. If your party has the upper hand or if you are going on an offensive, feel free to contribute! But just be careful not to let yourself get overwhelmed. Also bear in mind that a great way to help is to consider your support magic. Blinded, dazed, or sleeping creatures can’t attack. Shielding your tank to hold enemies at a choke point removes the need for immediate healing so you can focus on other things, or attack! Keeping aware of the battlefield and how the fight is going make the difference between a good healer and a great healer!
3. Use your Spells: A common trap that players fall into is holding onto their spells “just in case”. By all means, read the situation–there’s no use blowing Cure Mass Wounds when you’re fighting a pack of wolves. But if half your party is nearly dead while you’re staring down a Beholder… well, now might be a good time to use the best you’ve got. After all, you can’t cast those big spells if you’re dead, right?
Along with that, really take the time to research your spells and abilities. Become familiar with them, but also consider creative uses for them. One of my favorite moments of ever playing is when my wife Katie, on her Bard Philia, cast Polymorph on my dungeon boss. The boss failed the check and my epic fight I’d been planning became a game of the party escaping a tiny kitten (they abandoned it in the chambers of the dungeon, in case you were wondering). It thoroughly pissed me off, but it was also effing awesome.
That’s all the information I have for today. Read up, roll your awesome healer, and kick some ass! Or, ah… undo the ass kicking that’s been happening. Until next time, happy healing!
Nick, the Hardcore Healer